Kittens are born fragile and vulnerable. Until they’re weaned (and even several weeks after weaning), a kitten needs to eat nothing but high-quality pet food.
But as a pet parent raising a kitten for the first time, you may not already be familiar with what constitutes high-quality kitten food. Well, this article is for you.
Read on for insights into what a kitten’s diet should comprise.
Kitten Diet Before Weaning
A kitten can live exclusively off her mother’s milk until he’s weaned. Weaning typically occurs anywhere from four to eight weeks.
However, several factors can make it difficult for a kitten to access her mother’s milk.
For instance, the mother cat may be too sick to produce enough milk to feed her young. Note that the efficiency of breast milk production largely depends on the overall health condition of the lactating mom.
The nursing cat might also be suffering from pain in her breasts or underbelly. As the ravenous kittens try to suckle their mom, they may exacerbate the pain, causing their mother to kick them away.
There are also instances where a mother cat simply rejects her kitten. Or it might just happen that there are many hungry mouths to feed and not enough breast milk to sustain them.
If your newborn kitten falls in any of the above scenarios, the best food to feed him during this period is milk replacement formula purchased from an established pet store. It’s not advisable to give a newborn kitten homemade cat foods as there are numerous things that could go wrong.
Kitten Diet After Weaning
Kittens can eat a more varied diet after weaning. At this point, you have the option of buying your kitten commercial cat food or preparing him a homemade delicacy.
Here are some common foods that kittens can eat;
1. Canned Foods
Canned foods are incredibly rehydrating. Such foods are especially great for picky drinkers.
Canned foods also include a variety of ingredients, making them an excellent way to introduce a kitten to different food tastes and aromas. Some of those ingredients include beef, poultry, and seafood like shrimp and tuna.
2. Scrambled Eggs
Egg contains most of the nutrients that a kitten requires in his diet. Just be sure to scramble it first.
Never feed raw eggs to your kitten, as uncooked eggs usually harbor harmful pathogens like bacteria and parasites. Ingesting these microorganisms may cause intestinal parasites or full-blown diseases like salmonellosis.
Also, avoid giving your kitten eggs prepared using too much fat. Excess fat consumption may lead to obesity, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, among other lifestyle diseases.
Salt and spices aren’t safe for kittens either.
Long-term exposure to overly salted foods can trigger sodium ion poisoning in kittens, a severe disease that could cause irreversible kidney damage. Tell-tale signs of sodium ion poisoning include frequent urination, increased thirst drive, weakness, inappetence, and rapid weight loss.
On the other hand, spices like onion and garlic may cause Heinz-body anemia. The condition is linked to the destruction of red blood cells. It presents anemia-like symptoms like paleness of the skin and gums, fatigue, and rapid weight loss.
3. Homemade Meat
A couple of weeks after weaning, your kitten’s teeth are now strong enough and can handle some meat. There’s a wide meat variety that you can consider, including beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and seafood.
But just like eggs, it’s important to cook meat before feeding it to your kitten. Most raw meats harbor disease-causing microorganisms. Others, particularly seafood, may also contain heavy metals like mercury and arsenic. Long-term exposure to these compounds could lead to multiple organ damage.
The potential hazards of consuming fatty, salty, and spicy foods also apply to meat.
Lastly, ensure you’re giving your kitten boneless meat.
Bones can splinter and lacerate your kitten’s mouth, causing excruciating oral pain. The splinters may further cut through the animal’s gut, resulting in intestinal bleeding.
Bones are also difficult to chew. For the most part, your kitten will swallow it whole. This can lead to asphyxiation or intestinal blockage. Besides, chewing tough bones may cause tooth loss.
Can Kittens Eat Greens?
Kittens are true carnivores who need meat in their diet more than anything else. But like most obligate carnivores, kittens can enjoy plant-based foods provided that it’s fed to them in moderation and only as an occasional snack.
In fact, you’ll realize that most high-quality kitten foods contain varying amounts of green products. Examples of plant-based foods that you can share with your kitten include;
• Fruits like avocado, mango, watermelon, orange, and strawberry
• Leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
• Tubers like potatoes and yams
Besides serving these plant-based foods to your kitten in moderation, it’s also important to insist on safe preparation methods. For instance, only give your kitten pitted fruits. Most fruit stones are indigestible. Others may also contain harmful chemicals, such as cyanides.
Can Kittens Consume Milk?
Kittens spend their first few weeks living exclusively on their mother’s milk. Therefore, it’s intuitive to want to share milk with a kitten even after he has already been weaned. However, milk is an unhealthy treat for any cat past his weaning stage.
Milk (alongside other dairy products like cheese, butter, and yogurt) contains lactose, a simple sugar associated with lactose intolerance in mature cats. Consuming lactose-containing foods can trigger stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
The reason younger kittens can safely consume milk is that they contain lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose. However, cats lose their ability to secrete lactase from the time they’re weaned.
There’s a wide variety of foods that you can feed your kitten. And while it’s possible to prepare many kitten foods at home, the conventional wisdom is to go for high-quality commercial cat foods specially formulated for young cats.